John Barrowman John Barrowman   Image Image  
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as The Matador


Queens Theatre, London
April 16, 1991 (ran for three months)
Role: Domingo Hernandez

In 1991, JB got to play opposite Stephanie Powers (TV audiences may remember her as Jennifer Hart of HART TO HART). John was cast in the title role of the Matador. The bullfighting sequences must have been thrilling as the bull was portrayed by six dancers.

991 musical by Mike Leander and Edward Seago, with a book by Peter Jukes, which tells the story of the rise and fall of a fictional matador, loosely based on Manuel Benitez, El Cordobes. The show featured stunning choreography in traditional Flamenco style by Rafael Aguilar, and the show won an Olivier Award as a result. Several dancers were cast directly from Spain, making their West End debuts. The bulls for the fighting sequences were performed by a phalanx of black-clad dancers, moving as one.

recorded two songs from the score ("I Was Born To Be Me" and "I'll Dress You In Mourning") which were released as 45 RPM and CD singles timed to coincide with the London opening. Barrowman later recorded "A Boy From Nowhere" on his solo CD, Reflections (released by JAY records).

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Press Association April 17, 1991, Wednesday A STAR IS BORN ...

BYLINE: Rob Scully, Press Association Entertainments Correspondent


LENGTH: 342 words

New star John Barrowman was celebrating as "the boy from nowhere" today after rave reviews for his West End role in the £1.5 million flamenco epic Matador. John, 24, star of a show inspired by the life of legendary bullfighter El Cordobes, said he based his role on the film legend James Dean. Aftr making his West End debut opposite Elaine Paige in the Cole Porter musical Anything Goes in 1989 he finally got to create a role of his own and overshadowed everyone else. At a glittering after-show party with Hollywood co-star Stefanie Powers, he said: "I suppose they will call me the boy from nowhere but this has been a great night for me. "It is wonderful because I have had to create a history for this character and I modelled him on James Dean - I am a great fan of his. "I used a bit of the moody side to my own personality as well. I am nervous every night but this was hardest because you are being watched by your peers." Cheering him along were his parents John and Marion, originally from Mount Vernon in Glasgow who emigrated to America when he was nine. Songs by Mike Leander and Edward Seago - including the Tom Jones hit The Boy From Nowhere - told the rags-to-riches story of the boy who dreamed of becoming a bullfighter and found fame. Miss Powers appears as a Hollywood star - based on Ava Gardner - who becomes his lover. Scene stealer Nicky Henson plays his money-grabbing manager. Hart To Hart star Miss Powers, making her British musical debut, said: "For me it is a most wonderful privilege to be a part of this theatrical family. "I am doing this for my pleasure and I don't really care what the critics say because I have loved this musical since I first heard it three years ago." A demonstration by anti-blood sport campaigners, who claimed the show glorified bulfighting, failed to disrupt the gala premiere of a musical which seems set for a long run. Miss Powers said: "The play is about human relationships and I am a conservationist who gives a large amount of income to wildlife conservation."

The Guardian (London)

April 17, 1991

Arts: Ole, Ole, a bull's eye - A rumbustious Matador at the Queen's Theatre


LENGTH: 443 words

ORIGINALLY subtitled The Musical Story Of The Life Of El Cordobes and planned as a vehicle for Tom Jones, Matador finally comes to the stage starring John Barrowman. All references to El Cordobes have been discreetly expurgated.

Now, it is the saga of Domingo Hernandez, the Boy From Nowhere ('El Nino De La Nada') who travels from poverty and obscurity in Andalusia to become a bullfighting equivalent of Elvis or The Beatles. As a plot for a West End musical, it has rather more going for it than King or Winnie. Also, Mike Leander and Edward Seago have banged together some very serviceable tunes, particularly A Boy From Nowhere itself.

There was scope for quantities of absurdity here, and director Elijah Moshinsky has not quite avoided all of it. It wasn't such a great idea to have the entire cast speaking in Spanish-inflected English, for example, which makes you think you're watching 'Allo 'Allo relocated to a tapas bar.

The role of Laura-Jane Wilding, an American movie star who tries to prise El Nino away from the twin prisons of his fame and his manager, appears to have been hastily nailed on as an appendage for a famous name. Stefanie Powers gamely took the plunge, and she plays it with a straight bat and an orange wig, but it could have been anyone.

But look on the sunny side. The bright, loud ensemble scenes are all remarkably successful, particularly an impressionistic montage of Madrid, and the tuneful bar scene which opens the second half. Alexander Hanson is rather moving in the role of the shoe salesman who was El Nino's closest friend in his poverty-stricken days. Despite a tendency to bark his lines like an irate Customs official, Nicky Henson excels as El Panama, the bullfighter's Colonel Parker-ish manager (and part-time guitar player).

The most striking notion of all is the decision to use six flamenco-style male dancers to play the bulls. This means the bullfights can be played purely in terms of dance; it gives the bulls an imposing figurative quality, and incidentally deflects attention away from the incredibly unfashionable idea of slaughtering animals. Maybe El Nino and the bull shouldn't have that conversation in the final act, though.

The script overreaches itself towards the end, when it tries to load the hero with extra significance as a cultural icon straining against Franco's throttling yoke in 'a fight for freedom and equality'. Barrowman, moreover, is too light and malleable a presence, a little short on duende ('the quality without which no bullfighter can conquer the summit of his art', according to Kenneth Tynan). There's still quite a bit to enjoy.